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ROLE OF EMPLOYERS AND WORKERS IN THE WORKPLACE DURING COVID-19

Source: http://www.alburolaw.com/role-of-employers-and-workers-in-the-workplace-during-covid-19

With the aim of minimizing the transmission of COVID – 19, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) joined forces and came up with guidelines on workplace regarding the prevention and control of COVID – 19 which was signed by the respective secretaries of the said two departments last April 30, 2020. Employers and workers in the private sector are mandated by the guidelines to observe health protocols as the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ), as the case may be, remains in effect. The precautionary measures set forth in the guidelines are the following:
A. ON INCREASING PHYSICAL AND MENTAL RESILIENCE
It should be a personal responsibility of the workers to be observed at all times their physical and mental well-being. However, according to the guidelines, employers are:
1. To emphasize to all workers the everyday actions to stay healthy such as:
a. Eat nutritious and well-cooked food;
b. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcoholic beverages;
c. Increase the body’s resistance by having adequate rest and at least eight (8) hours of sleep; and
d. Exercise regularly
2. Enjoined to provide free medicine and vitamins; and
3. Provide referral for workers needing counselling or presenting with mental health concerns.
B. ON REDUCING TRANSMISSION OF COVID – 19
1. Prior to entrance in buildings or workplaces
a. all employers and workers shall:
i. Wear face masks at all times and remove the same only when eating or drinking. Employers shall provide the appropriate face masks for workers. Should cloth mask be used, the washable type shall be worn but additional filter material such as tissue papers inside the masks may be added;
ii. Accomplish daily the health symptoms questionnaire and submit to the guard or designated safety officer prior to entry;
*The Health Symptom Questionnaire.
It may be retyped by a designated employee.

iii. Have their temperature checked and recorded in the health symptoms questionnaire. If a worker has a temperature of >37.5 degree Celsius, even after a 5-minute rest, or if his response in the questionnaire needs further evaluation by the clinic staff, the person shall be isolated in an area identified by the company and will not be allowed to enter the workplace premises. Clinic staff assigned to assess the workers held in the isolation area shall be provided the appropriate medical grade Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) by the establishment.
iv. Spray alcohol or sanitizers to both hands and provide disinfectant foot baths at the entrance if practicable.
b. Equipment or vehicle entering the hub operational area must go through a disinfection process; and
c. Roving officers should instill physical distancing of one meter if there will be a long queue outside the office or store premises.
2. Inside the workplace
a. All work areas and frequently handled objects such as door knobs, and handles, shall be cleaned and disinfected regularly, at least once every two (2) hours;
b. All washrooms and toilets shall have sufficient clean water and soap, workers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth;
c. Sanitizers shall be made available in corridors, conference areas, elevators, stairways and areas where workers pass;
d. Workers, whether in office workstations or in operations area, shall always practice physical distancing meaning at the minimum of one (1) meter radius space (side, back and front) between workers;
e. Eating in communal areas is discouraged. It is best to eat in individual work area and all wastes shall be disposed properly. If eating in individual work areas is not possible, the employer shall ensure that physical distancing is maintained in dining areas with one worker per table and one (1) meter distance per worker. It is discouraged that workers engage in conversation with masks off during meal times. Tables and chairs shall be cleaned or disinfected after every use of the area, and before as well as at the end of the workday; and
f. Canteens and kitchens should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
C. ON MINIMIZING CONTACT RATE
1. Alternative work arrangements, such as working-hour shifts, work from home (WFH), where feasible and on rotation basis;
2. Prolonged face-to-face interaction between workers and with clients are discouraged and masks shall be worn at all times and not removed. Meetings needing physical presence shall be kept to a minimum number of participants and with short duration. Videoconferencing shall be utilized for lengthy discussions among workers;
3. Office tables should be arranged in order to maintain proper physical distancing. Barriers may be provided between tables;
4. Workstation layout should be designated to allow for unidirectional movement in aisles, corridors or walkways;
5. To maintain physical distancing, number of people inside and enclosed space such as a room, store or hall shall be limited. Elevator use should consider physical distancing and limit the number of persons in order to observe the one (1)-meter physical distancing;
6. Use of stairs should be encouraged subject to physical distancing requirements. If more than two (2) stairs are accessible, one (1) stairway may be used exclusively for going up and another for going down;
7. Online system shall be highly encouraged to be utilized for clients needing assistance from offices including the use of videoconferencing; and
8. Roving officers shall always ensure physical distancing and observance of minimum health protocols.
D. ON REDUCING THE RISK OF INFECTION FROM COVID-19
1. In the event that a worker is suspected as having COVID-19:
a. The worker shall immediately proceed to the isolation area designated in the workplace and never remove his or her mask;
b. Clinic personnel attending to the workers should wear appropriate PPEs and if needed should require the transport of the affected worker to the nearest hospital. Company protocols for transport for suspect COVID-19 cases and for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, should be in place including providing for ambulance conduction.
c. Decontamination of workplace
i. Workplace shall be decontaminated with appropriate disinfectant;
ii. After decontamination of the work area, work can resume after twenty-four (24) hours; and
iii. Workers present in the work area with the suspect COVID-19 worker shall go on fourteen (14) days home quarantine with specific instructions from the clinic staff on monitoring symptoms and possible next steps. If suspect COVID-19 worker has negative result, co-workers may be allowed to report back to work.
2. In the event that a worker is sick or has fever but is not suspected to have COVID-19, the employer must advise the worker to take prudent measures to limit the spread of communicable disease, as follows:
a. Stay at home and keep away from work or crowds;
b. Take adequate rest and take plenty of fluids;
c. Practice personal hygiene to prevent spread of disease; and
d. Seek appropriate medical care if there is persistent fever, when difficulty of breathing has started, or when he or she becomes week.
E. DUTIES OF EMPLOYERS AND WORKERS
1. Employers shall:
a. Provide the necessary company policies for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in consultation with workers. Advocacy and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programs should be taken from Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and reliable sources of information on COVID-19;
b. Provide resources and materials needed to keep the workers healthy and the workplace;
c. Designate the safety officer to monitor COVID-19 prevention and control measures such as physical distancing, wearing of masks, regular disinfection, compliance to thermal scanning and accomplishing health symptoms questionnaire;
d. Enhance health insurance provision for workers;
e. Where feasible, provide shuttle services and/or decent accommodation on near-site location to lessen travel and people movement;
f. Enjoin the hiring from the local community; and
g. Put up a COVID-19 Hotline and Call Center for employees to report if symptomatic, and daily monitoring scheme of our “suspect” employee condition.
h. For “Most At Risk Workers” and vulnerable groups, employers are highly encouraged to allow these workers to do work from home arrangement. Work Agreements should be developed to detail the deliverables from these employees and there shall be no diminution in wages or benefits.
* Most At Risk Workers are those above sixty (60) years of age with co-morbidities or pre-existing illness such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or with immunocompromised health status; or with high risk pregnancy.
i. Provide the DOLE through its Regional Office copy furnished DOH, monthly reporting illness, diseases and injuries utilizing the DOLE Work Accident/Illness Report Form.
2. Workers shall:
a. Comply with all workplace measures in place for the prevention and control of COVID-19, such as frequent handwashing, wearing of masks, observe physical distance always among others;
b. Observe proper respiratory etiquette;
c. Coughing and sneezing into tissue or into shirt sleeve if tissue is not available;
d. Disposing of used tissues properly;
e. Disinfecting hands immediately through proper washing with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer immediately after a cough or sneeze.
F. ASSISTANCE BY THE DTI AND DOLE
DTI and DOLE extend assistance and technical support to all workplaces, employers and workers in complying with the guidelines.

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